ABP welcomes 17 new members

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On March 10, Gordon Hughes II stood in a ballroom at the Pierre Hotel in New York, wearing a bow tie and smiling broadly. The president of the American Business Press had just presided over the ceremony for the 46th annual Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Awards, which had a record attendance of more than 500 people.

But what made Hughes really happy was the 17 new companies that officially joined the organization at the board meeting earlier that day. "I've got to thank Alan Douglas," Hughes said later. "He headed the membership action plan."

Led by Douglas, who is president of Douglas Publications, Richmond, Va., the ABP secured a new-member class that includes online technology portal ZDNet, San Francisco; one-time member Jobson Publishing L.L.C., Newton Square, Pa.; and start-up Proximus Information, New York. ZDNet's membership would have been impossible just four months ago, which was when the ABP approved a change in its bylaws to allow nonprint publishers into the organization.

"Last November, we agreed to open up membership to all media -- not just print publications, but trade shows and electronic media, too," said Marshall Freeman, chairman of the ABP and of Miller Freeman Inc., San Francisco. "The rationale behind this is clear: business-to-business marketing and media have broadened far beyond publication, so we changed our footprint."

The machinations for bringing nonprint media into the fold began in earnest last spring when the ABP lost the dues of two members: CMP Media, which had been acquired by Miller Freeman, and Ziff-Davis Inc., which resigned its membership. In the wake of losing the $300,000 in annual dues that those two members represented, the organization's initial response was to ponder raising dues to cover the shortfall.

At Douglas' urging, however, the ABP instead looked at expanding its membership beyond nonprint media. After all, most of the ABP members weren't strictly publishing companies themselves, and a majority were generating nearly 50% of their revenue from trade shows, Web sites and other nonprint sources.

In November, the ABP voted to extend full membership to nonprint media companies. One of the first nonprint members was Horsham, Pa.-based VerticalNet Inc., which had long been a nemesis for some ABP members, particularly Cleveland-based Penton Media and New York-based Cahners Business Information.

Combined annual dues from the new members are expected to be about $500,000, more than covering the shortfall caused by the loss of CMP and Ziff-Davis. The ABP is courting new members and expects to announce as many as 10 more at its annual spring meeting in May.

Ziff-Davis Publishing, which is being sold to Willis Stein & Partners, Chicago, is said to be mulling a return to the ABP.

Additionally, a new name for the ABP appears to be certain, and the obvious is being considered: American Business Press may soon be known as American Business Media.

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